Too many cooks spoil the broth. How true is that of humankind! Even in nature we find that there is only one alpha male or one matriarch in a group or species. Many of our management structures are also built on that recipe – one boss and many workers.
How many times do companies struggle to break down the silo mentality in the workplace and battle to motivate teams to work together more efficiently.efficiently? Imagine my pleasant surprise when I stumbled upon the perfect team work example between species that enhances their survival in the unforgiving world of predators.
Consider Zebra, Giraffe, Impala, Wildebeest, Kudu and Buffalo teams. Each team is distinctly different from each other. Each team has different strengths and different struggles. All these animals are vulnerable to predators, they need skills to survive. Each of them has some special gifts, talents and strengths that make their survival as a species possible.
The Impala is graceful and fast and can change direction very quick; they always gather in groups and have good hearing and vision. They remind me of our very social colleagues at work, they always gather in groups, they always know what is going on with their good vision and hearing, they love changing direction and are very flexible.
The Zebra is well camouflaged, they blend in. A colour blind predator will not easily distinguish them between the branches and shadows. Zebra is known for the powerful kicks and will form a circle to protect each other and ward off predators. They are slow runners, but they have great stamina and can outrun a predator. The Zebra reminds me of the quiet people. They are social, but don’t want to stand out in the crowd, they want to blend in. Even though their stripes are unique to each of them, when they stand in a crowd, they blend in and individuals are difficult to distinguish from one another. We all know those introverts who blend in with the crowd, but upset them and you get a loud “bray” and if it they are really upset, you might even get a powerful ‘kick’.
The Giraffes stand out and are proud of their stature, but at the same time can blend in with their surroundings, legs looking like tree branches going up and a body hidden between the tree canopies resembling the shadows. The Giraffe has powerful and heavy legs with a hard, sharp hoof that can kick into any direction and can even decapitate a lion. They are mostly quiet and very few people have heard their low tones. In the workplace we also have these gentle giants, who stand firm in the limelight when needed, but blend in when the situation demands it.
The Kudu is an alert, nervous animal with a loud, sharp bark to make alarm. They forage very quietly in the bush, allowing themselves not to be heard by predators.
The big, dangerous buffalo tend to stay in large herds and will stampede in case of danger. Their massive build and strong horns make them a force to be reckoned with.
Wildebeest have poor eyesight, but excellent hearing and smell.
These species are able to survive using their uniqueness. But, when they all come together and support each other, their survival rate increases even more. Is that not how we should be in a group? Look out for your own discipline, your own kind, stay your unique self, but keep the others in mind. Send them signals and pick up on their signals – that will make your own survival rate as a group so much greater.
The Impala (the socialites that know everything of everybody) are very good at communicating and will react to any sign of danger – they give these short, single “barks” when danger lurks close. All the other animals tend to react and become more aware when they hear the Impala’s warning.
Zebras have exceptionally good eyesight and can see day and night, they also have very good hearing and sense of smell. When they spot danger, they will give a loud bray – very useful to the other species at night.
Due to their height, Giraffe have accurate long range vision and can give all the species around them a head start when danger lurks.
The Kudu is very expressive with its short, furry, bushy tail, which signals to all danger when they curl it up over their back exposing the white underside.
Buffalo have bad eyesight and hearing and need all the help they can get. They have excellent smell and sleep very little – this can be beneficial for other species that need to snooze during the night and need a rude awakening when danger is around.
All these animals are unique in personality, talents, gifting and survival skills in the bushveld, but they work together within species to survive the relentless hunting of the predators.
That is why you will always find them close to each other and not only on their own, in small gatherings.
Imagine your teams can keep their own unique strong qualities doing what they do well in their own way, but at the same time work together as a well-functioning team, supporting each other for a greater goal. Such supportive behaviour will lead to greater efficiency in an ever increasing work pace. These survival skills will become more crucial as time goes by.
Wilmien Davis is the Member of the International Coach Federation.